REAL FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans )
Every serious student of the Bible is aware of the emphasis on “fellowship” within the sacred volume. At the point of our conversion, we are called into fellowship with God, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians ). And of course there is the blessed fellowship that saints enjoy with one another (1 John 1:7). When the Lord prayed that all of His disciples might be “one,” He implied the warm fellowship that should prevail among them (John -21).
We want you to note the word FELLOW in fellowship. We talk about a fellow worker or fellow student, and this is how we understand the word FELLOWSHIP. What we are talking about is TOGETHERNESS. Fellowship is togetherness. It means taking part together or sharing together. The word means to be involved in doing things together. This is a beautiful word in the Bible because Christianity is not only a matter of togetherness with God, but a matter of togetherness with God’s people as well. Therefore, REAL fellowship in Christ brings with it companionship with God and companionship with God’s people.
So we see two areas of our fellowship. First and most important, our fellowship or relationship with God; but second, our togetherness with God’s people…taking part together with God’s people. No faithful Christian can be aloof and separate from God’s people. No faithful Christian can be outside the church and away from fellowship and worship in the church. You see, our fellowship in Christ binds us together with those of our brethren who are in Christ.
we want to expand our title into six areas:
1. Because I am made in God’s image I LONG for His fellowship.
2. The early Christians were strengthened by close fellowship together.
3. The church of the first century worshiped together.
4. The First Century church worked together in the common cause of the Gospel.
5. They shared their goods and gave to a common need.
6. They did NOT fellowship those in evil or in error.
I. Because I am made in God’s image I LONG for His fellowship.
This word “long” means to have an intense desire and interest. It’s not just to want, but to strongly want something. And since I am made in God’s image and likeness I LONG for or have a very strong longing for His fellowship. There are many passages in the Bible that express the longing of man and the possibility of man to have this fellowship with God. Let’s read and discuss a few of them:
Psalms 63:1 – My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee… Like David, every one of us is thirsty for God. We have a longing for God. We are dissatisfied without God. Something is lacking, there is vacancy, and there is emptiness without God. And this is because I’m made for God. I’m made to be in fellowship with God. God longs for our fellowship and we thirst for His fellowship.
1 John 1:3 – Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ… The Bible is written so that we may have fellowship with God. This verse expresses the ability of the apostle John to write his epistle or to write this part of the Bible so that Christians could have fellowship with him and the apostles, which was really fellowship with the Father and with Jesus. This is how God has enabled us to have fellowship. The Holy Spirit has revealed the Word and man has written the Bible enabling us to know the way and the meaning of fellowship with the Godhead.
1 Cor. 1:9 – “God is faithful, by whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” God has faithful done what He promised to do in bringing man into fellowship with Christ. It cost Him His Son. He had to give up His dearest and most beloved and only begotten Son. But He is faithful…He has done what He promised. He has made provision and made it possible for man to be called unto or into this fellowship with Christ. What a marvelous thing that God would call us and enable us to have this fellowship with Christ.
Matthew 28:20 – Lo, I am with you alway, even until the end of the world… Jesus before leaving His apostles made this promise – “I will be with you, (I am with you) alway, even until the end of the world.”
These four passages show that: “we thirst for God,” “we have fellowship with God and His Son Jesus,” “we have been called into this fellowship,” and “God is with us always.” These are beautiful expressions from scripture which show God’s longing for our fellowship and our longing for His fellowship. How wonderful it is to be able to come into this fellowship…to be able to be forgiven of sins in Christ Jesus and to have this togetherness and companionship with God in Christ. If you do not have this fellowship you are missing the greatest experience of life. If you are in Christ you do have it. You are privileged to enjoy it and you need to understand it and how to continue in it.
II. The early Christians were strengthened by close fellowship together.
They were made strong by close fellowship together. If you are weak and all of us are, but if you feel your weakness as a new Christian in Christ, perhaps you need to be more fully attached to your brethren. You perhaps need to be more involved and have your life entangled and entrenched with theirs. You see, no man can live the Christian life alone or by himself. We live it together with our brethren. The Bible says, “no man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself” (Rom. 14:7). No man is an island. Just as surely as we need God and fellowship and companionship with Him, we also need to be strengthened by close fellowship with brethren. And since God’s fellowship is more difficult for people to understand and since God is not visible we find a great encouragement in our fellowship with God by our fellowship with brethren. For me, it is much easier to have close fellowship with people I can see than with God who I cannot see. In fact, God tells us that we express our love to Him by our love to our fellow Christians. And they in turn express their love to us and this represents God’s love to us. The early Christians participated together in this close fellowship with each other. They were strengthened and made stronger by this fellowship. Again, let’s read and discuss a few passages from God’s word which plainly teach these principles:
– “All that believed were together, and had all things common.” Here is
wonderful picture of the early church – the church at
– The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one
soul… Isn’t that a marvelous togetherness? You might be in some
organization where people might have something in common, but also
each other and be jealous of each other. But in Christ and in the
great multitude of thousands of Christians in
1 Cor. – Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it… This is a chapter dealing with the church as the body of Christ. Jesus is the head and all the other parts of the body are Christians or members of the body. So Paul’s illustration makes this point: if one member of my body or one organ of my body suffers, then all the members suffer with it. Experience has taught us that if we are physically sick in one part of our body the rest of our body participates and suffers. Paul goes on to say that if one member is honored, all the members rejoice. We learn from this verse the companionship and togetherness; the taking part together of Christians in suffering and in honor. And I believe that all of our suffering can be made much easier by sharing it…by letting others help bear the load. And our honor can be more enjoyable and can make others happier if we rejoice together. This is the kind of fellowship by which the early Christians were strengthened.
Phil. – E-paph-ro-ditus was one of Paul’s fellow workers. Paul speaks of him as “my brother, and companion in labor and fellow soldier.” Here’s a man who was a fellow laborer. He was Paul’s companion in labor. He was a fellow soldier. These two men had fought battles against the enemy together. They backed each other. They were brothers in the closest sense of labor and war. I’m sure that any of you who may have served your country in a war or may have been soldiers have experienced the dependence you have upon each other as soldiers. This was the thing Paul was expressing about E-paph-ro-ditus.
Christians truly do depend upon our brothers and sisters. We are fellow soldiers working and warring together as companions in labor in the Lord. These early Christians therefore were strengthened by their close fellowship together. Meaningful and heart-felt was there fellowship. All things were common. They were of one heart and one soul. They suffer and rejoiced together. They were fellow laborers and soldiers. Are not these beautiful expressions of togetherness among Christians? Among those who work together, worship together, war closely together against the enemy, and depend one upon the other?
III. The church of the first century worshiped together.
They worshiped together in a common spirit and bond of love. This means they were bound together as if they were in the same chains. Like prisoners who were bound together, except their bond was LOVE. They were bound together in the bond of LOVE. This tells us that worship binds brethren together. We have togetherness of spirit. Communion or common union binds brethren together. You cannot really worship the same God and the same Christ by means of the same Holy Spirit without growing closely meshed together with your brethren. The Bible says:
Acts – “They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
For this lesson, the important word here is “fellowship.” The early Christians were stedfastly worshipping God and sharing fellowship together. When we engage in public worship, every part of it is something done together. We teach and admonish one another in our singing (Col. 3:16; Eph. ). We are communing together as well as communing with Christ in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. -17). When we give we are putting into a common treasury and sharing together in the ministry to the Saints or in the fellowship and furtherance of the Gospel (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Our prayers are led together by some brother, and our preaching and study of the Bible is together. All Christian worship, therefore, in the Lord’s Day assembly is a continuing stedfastly together in fellowship. As we worship together we are bringing our minds and hearts together in a common spirit, in a common bond of love.
Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus promises that where brethren’s hearts are together, as well as being gathered together in body, they are also together with Him; for He is in the midst of them. Jesus has promised that He drinks the fruit of the vine with us during the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:29). Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” I don’t just consider myself as I worship, I also consider my brother. Everything about the worship that benefits me must benefit him as well. I must consider him to provoke him unto love and to good works. Provoke means to sharpen or intensify. To bring him unto love and good works. To cause him to have love and good works. This shows that in the assembly I cannot worship God selfishly or alone. I am to share this worship together with my brother and provoke him unto love and to good works.
1 Cor. – “For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” Paul is here emphasizing the fact that the one bread of the Lord’s Supper represents the one body, which is the church, and we all partake of the one bread and therefore even though we may be many Christians are together in one body. The parts of my body are very closely united together. They are depended upon one another. If I get a finger cut off my body is no longer whole. In the Bible that finger represents a Christian. His life is through the body. He has no real usefulness unattached from the body. So this verse is a meaningful expression of our togetherness in Christ. Early Christians were therefore many, but they were one body, one bread, and partakers of the one bread.
So as Christians gather together, that is in the sense of communing together, Jesus said, “I am in the midst of you.” This shows that our relationship with one another influences our relationship with God. I cannot really expect Jesus to be with me and my brethren unless we are in communion together. Communion with God is interrelated with communion with each other. I cannot hate my brother and love God. I cannot despise and abuse my fellow Christians and have fellowship with God.
IV. The first Century church worked together in the common cause of the Gospel.
The task of Christians is spreading the Gospel – i.e., teaching and preaching the Gospel. Naturally this binds hearts and lives together as nothing else can, because nothing else is that important. The Bible shows that this great common work of spreading, supporting, teaching, and preaching the Gospel demands our working together. Jesus said every creature in every nation in all the world is to be taught. Everything Jesus has taught is to be taught to every creature in every nation in all the world. It will take some togetherness to get this great task done. We must work together and depend upon one another.
Phil. 1:3-5 – This passage expresses Paul’s thankfulness for their fellowship in the Gospel. The church at Philippi, from the beginning of their association with Paul, began to send him support. When he was in their city they worked with him to spread the Gospel and when he was away they sent money to him to help him spread the Gospel. They had this fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel. This is what Christians do together. They push, pull, or get out of the way. They are either supporters or preachers or helpers in some way and in every way that they have talent.
Phil. 4:3 – Paul mentions those women who labor with him in the Gospel. Women can certainly have participation in spreading the Gospel, not as public proclaimers from the pulpit to the population at large, but as home teachers and as teachers of young women and children. They too are laborers together with preachers in the Gospel.
3 John 8 – Says, “We ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.” In third John there is the problem of false teachers going about through the churches. These Christians are warned not to participate with any one who is a false teacher…with any one who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ. But that was not to keep them from receiving such as teach the truth. You see, we must fellowship those in the truth. So every time these early Christians took in a preacher who was preaching the truth and gave him food and shelter they became fellow helpers to the truth. You may not be able to be a preacher, but you can and must be a fellow helper to the truth.
2 Cor. – Paul said, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…” Paul was devoted to his brethren. He was willing to sacrifice his all…spending himself and being spent for them that the Gospel might go out and Christians might be strengthened. This is our task. It is a big one. It requires everyone and every talent. It requires depending upon one another and not working against each other. Our task is to work together in the common cause of the Gospel.
V. They shared their goods and gave to a common need.
This topic has to do with giving. Sharing is fellowship. Fellowship is taking part together. If some brother is in need, either physical or spiritual, and I refuse to share that I’m not in fellowship with him. Brethren, it is not enough to just say, I LOVE YOU, but I must show by my sharing my love and fellowship for you. The early Christians did this.
– They determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in
2 Cor. 9:7 – “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give…” Paul was raising a contribution for Jewish Christians from Gentile churches. He wanted to show the Jews how the Gentiles loved them. So he taught these Christians to give as they purpose in their heart. Christian giving is not rigid. It is not like the Old Testament 10% tithing. But rather it is as a man purposes in his heart or as he is prospered (1 Cor. 16:2). This expresses the devotion of the heart. If a man gives a certain amount because the preacher or elder tells him to, then he has not really put his heart into it. Jesus said where our treasure is there our heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). God doesn’t want our treasure, He wants our heart. The way then to give Him our heart is to give Him our treasure.
2 Cor. 8:3-4 – Speaks of “the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” The Holy Spirit here is talking about giving, but He calls that giving fellowship. You see if a Christian knew of his brothers need and didn’t give to satisfy that need then he was not in fellowship with that brother. He refused that fellowship. The word fellowship in the New Testament is not just shaking hands. It is not just slapping each other on the back and saying good morning brother. Bible fellowship is sharing, it is sacrificing, it is suffering with, and it is being willing to deprive ourselves for another.
Phil. 4:15 – Paul said no church had fellowship with him concerning giving and receiving, except the Philippian church. They had from the beginning in so many ways shared with Paul in the work. They had fellowship with him concerning giving and receiving. The things we have just discussed under this topic give the real meaning of Bible fellowship. It is not just singing together, as important as that is, but it is sharing, sacrificing, and giving to one another so that our hearts are bond together in this common need.
VI. They did NOT fellowship those in evil or in error.
The things which we do not fellowship are as important as the things we do. What we fellowship is important, but what we don’t fellowship is also important. There are two things which we must not fellowship, evil and error. Must Christians are aware that we must not fellowship evil, but many seem not to be aware of the command to avoid error or false teaching. Let’s look at a few passages which speak of the Christian not participating in these two things.
Eph. 5:11 – “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” This is talking about sinful wicked men and their practices. What we have no fellowship with is as important as what we have fellowship with. The Christian’s life is divided into both positive and negative commands. I must do many things, but also I must not do many things. If I have fellowship with my brethren in worship, but then go out and have fellowship with those in error and sin, then I am failing in that halve of my Christian life. This does NOT mean we are to be above these people for Jesus associated with the lowest in the eyes of the Jews. He associated with the publicans and harlots, but He did so to reach them and teach them; to show love toward them. This was not having fellowship in their practices. When God tells us to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness it means “don’t participate in what they are doing.” Now if you are a strong Christian you may go into a bar, so long as you are going there to help someone who is in it. But if you go in and are tempted and share, then you are having fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness.
2 Cor. 6:14 – “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? The answer is NONE! Light and darkness do not mix. Righteousness and unrighteousness cannot share. Therefore, I must not be unequally yoked together. In fact, verse 17 tells us to “come out from among them and be separate.” God demands our exclusive fellowship as His sons and daughters. We can’t share His and the devil’s fellowship at the same time.
Romans – Tells us to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Christians are to mark a man that is causing divisions and offences. I must then avoid him. This is dealing with the matter of doctrine, not necessarily wickedness. It is dealing with false teaching. Many men have fair speeches and good words, but they are deceivers, deceiving the hearts of the simple (vs. 18). Why must they be marked? Because they are causing divisions and offenses among Christians contrary to the doctrine that we’ve learned. I must avoid them. This means to not have fellowship with error or with false doctrine.
1 Cor. – Tells us not to keep company with any man that is called a brother, who is a fornicator, covetous, idolater, railer, drunkard, extortioner. These are men who are called brother, but they are not living like a brother. With such men we are not even to eat with in a social way. We are not to share our life with that kind of person’s life. In this context Paul was taking about a brother who was living with his father’s wife. He was a fornicator. Paul gave this command to shock that fornicator and cause the Corinthian church to withdraw their companionship and make the man ashamed so as to bring him back to Christ. As we read the second Corinthian letter we learn that this happened. In Second Corinthians chapter 2, Paul admonished the church to forgive him and comfort him after his repentance. By receiving him back into the fold they were confirming their love for him. That is always the right and biblical thing to do. I therefore repeat: when a brother or sister repents of sin, you who are spiritual should receive him back into the fold, forgive him, comfort him, and confirm your love for him. Those who won’t do these things have allowed Satan to get an advantage (2 Cor. 2:11).
2 John 10 – “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” Verse 11 says that those who bid him God speed become partakers of his evil deeds. We are talking about partaking or fellowship. If I receive a preacher or teacher into my house that doesn’t bring the doctrine of Christ, and if I’m sharing with him hospitality, I’m becoming a partaker of his evil deeds. We are not to fellowship those in evil or in error. The early Christians were just as careful not to fellowship the wrong persons and the wrong practices as they were to fellowship the right.
Conclusion and Review:
Loved ones, we pray that these few words on Real Fellowship in Christ will cause your fellowship with God to be richer and your companionship with His people to be richer. As you grow in your understanding of this togetherness and take a greater part in our fellowship in Christ we know you will be strengthened as the early Christians were.
Because I am made in God’s image I LONG for His fellowship, as well as God wanting my fellowship.
The early Christians were strengthened by close fellowship together, and so must we also be strengthened.
They worshiped together in a common spirit and a bond of love which bound them together.
They worked together in the common cause of preaching, supporting, and spreading the Gospel.
They shared their goods by giving to a common need. If one suffered then all suffered and sent relief to him.
They did NOT fellowship two things: those in evil and those in error. They had to break fellowship with an evil brother so that he would be ashamed. And they had to mark and avoid them that caused divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine they had learned. This shows us the purity of Christian fellowship. It cannot be mixed. I cannot mix righteousness with unrighteousness. Just as light does not mix with darkness, I must come out from among evil men. I must come out from among false teachers. I must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Why? Because God is a jealous God. He wants my heart. He wants everything that I am. I am made in His image and I long for His fellowship and companionship. He has provided that by my life of fellowship in Christ and in His church. I must be content and fully satisfied with God’s arrangement, and not be seeking to go outside of the realm of His people and join my life to others who may take away from my fellowship with God. Certainly I must be interested in them and love them that are on the outside, but I must be careful lest they distract from my genuine fellowship which is in God through Christ Jesus.
Real Fellowship in Christ is taking part together. It is companionship with God and God’s people. It is togetherness in a spiritual soul encounter with God and His people. And you and I have the grand and glorious privilege of fellowship. I hope we will never neglect it. I hope we will always be faithful in our worship regularly and stedfastly. I hope that this togetherness with our brothers will be meaningful and deep, and not just on the surface. I hope that each of us will give our all and spend and be spent in the common cause of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have this fellowship, then thank God for it. If others do not, share it with them and bring them in to it. May God be praised and thanked for His wonderful marvelous Fellowship in Christ.